NWHL: Czech star Tereza Vanisova adds boost to Pride

Michell Jay/NWHL

The single-elimination Isobel Cup Semifinals will be shown live on Thursday, Feb. 4 at 5:30 p.m. ET and 8:30 p.m. ET. The winners of the semifinals will advance to the Isobel Cup Final on Friday, Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. ET. In addition to coverage on NBCSN, live coverage will stream exclusively on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

The Boston Pride will tell you they don’t have any rookies.

Of course, they added eight players in the 2020 NWHL Draft, but head coach Paul Mara doesn’t like forgetting their past experience, whether it be college or international.

Czech star Tereza Vanisova is in that category. Out of the University of Maine, where she became the program’s all time leading scorer with 129 points and 63 goals, Vanisova is projected to step right into the Pride lineup in her first season in the league.

“We’ve been working together for a few months,” she said. “Getting the team going and feeling the energy with the lines, with my line, I think it’s good. I feel like we’re ready to go.”

Vanisova has skated on an all-rookie line with first overall pick Sammy Davis and former New Hampshire captain Taylor Wenczkowski. That’s a lot of trust for Mara and co to put in their first year players, but he believes it could be one of the most dangerous lines in the NWHL.

“She went under the radar, probably because she was in Maine, but you look at her highlight reels and and the numbers she put up and it’s pretty scary,” said Mara. “We’re really excited about her and what she can do, and even what she’s done so far in practice.”

Vanisova, a left-handes shot, has a reputation as a speedster. Her alongside Davis is certainly going to be one of the quickest lines in the league, at the very least.

Her numbers overseas might stand out in that regard more than at the NCAA level. She’s consistently represented the Czech Republic in the Women’s Worlds, playing alongside older players and has held her own, contributing 75 points spanning back to 2013 in various tournaments.

Of any rookie coming out of college, the 24-year-old Vanisova is equipped to play against pro players.

“I played with Tereza for years,” said Beauts rookie goalie Carly Jackson, who also played for Maine. “She’s pretty spectacular and she’s a gamer and just going to be totally fun to play against. It’ll be a fun challenge.”

Vanisova had a few options when she graduated. She already had a history of playing in Europe, and then there’s always the looming Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association.

She said playing in Boston was a good fit since she was already nearby in Maine, and she enrolled in grad school in the United States where she’d be able to stay.

It wasn’t easy to decide at first, though.

“After four years in Maine I actually wanted to go home,” she said. “But then I was figuring out what am I going to study next, and I found a school in Boston, which worked out really well. That’s what made me stay but I also wanted to try this. I wanted to see how it is (in the NWHL), and I’m excited.”

With the majority of the Pride roster hailing from Hockey East schools, they know a thing or two about how tough Vanisova is to play against.

Particularly her linemates, who are glad she chose to play in the NWHL, and with the Pride instead of elsewhere.

“She’s really quick and has really good hands in tight,” said Davis. “She’s just so fast. You can’t really let her get any room. It was the same in college, if you give her room she’s just going to fly by you.”

Putting together a team in a pandemic has challenges, but the Pride didn’t lose all that much from their should-have-been Isobel Cup run almost a year ago. They lost Emily Fluke to the Toronto Six and Alyssa Wohlfeiler to the Connecticut Whale, but the majority of the forward lines remained in tact.

Rosters expanded for the bubble, though, and that means there’s more talent across the board. The Pride have always relied heavily on young, local talent from Hockey East, and Vanisova fit that bill and then some.

“She’s an excellent player and we’re really excited to have her,” said Pride general manager Karilyn Pilch. “I think along with our other rookies, just their compete level is so high….. There are rookies across the team who are going to have a big impact for sure.”

Vanisova’s talents could have brought her anywhere in hockey she wanted, at nearly any part of the world. She wanted the challenge of the NWHL and she wanted to see what she could do with her rival players of the past four years.

More than anything, she wanted to experience the unexpected.

“I don’t know what to expect,” she said. “Games are games, but I have no idea what to expect in the NWHL. I think it’s going to be fast, but really, I don’t know.”

Marisa Ingemi is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi.

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